Hiking has a diversity problem. These BIPOC groups are working to fix it

Victoria Hernandez
·4 min read
Illustration of people hiking
(Tomi Um / For The Times)

This story is part of our ultimate guide to hiking in L.A. You can buy a print copy at the L.A. Times store.

Longtime oppression and historical barriers have kept many people of color from feeling comfortable in the American outdoors. Now that may be changing. Groups in Southern California and around the nation have made it their goal to introduce people of color to nature in a positive way. Their mission is to remove barriers and help people experience the connection, whether they are seeking fitness, healing, personal accomplishment or knowledge about all the outdoors has to offer. For many, the first step is going on a hike. Here are groups working toward a more diverse outdoors.

Latino Outdoors: Christian La Mont, program manager of Latino Outdoors, a national organization with a Los Angeles chapter, calls the process of removing barriers “the hike before the hike.” The idea is that people of color see themselves represented on the trail.

His first hike with the group was to Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook in Culver City. He was encouraged by the families that showed up, the easy conversation that flowed between Spanish and English, and how group founder José González welcomed everyone. The organization frequently collaborates with other hiking groups to bring a further sense of unity to Los Angeles. Latino Outdoors is utilizing the time in quarantine to connect with its community online, with live streams of hikes, tutorials and do-it-yourself scavenger hunts. Connect with Latino Outdoors at its Instagram @latinooutdoors.

Hike Clerb: Evelynn Escobar grew up hiking with her tia. As she went on excursions in national parks, she felt out of place as a Black Latina and noticed that people looked at her funny. When she moved to Los Angeles, she decided to create a hiking community and started Hike Clerb in 2017 with an Instagram account and some friends. Her husband took their first group photo when they hiked in Griffith Park. Five years later, the account has more than 20,000 followers around the world as Escobar has empowered women of color to experience the nature that has fueled her. “Our strength is in connecting with the outdoorsy girl who doesn’t realize she’s an outdoorsy girl,” she said. Keep up with Hike Clerb on its Instagram @hikeclerb.

The Black Neighborhood: In the moment of reckoning in America spurred by George Floyd’s death at the hands of police, Bryce Savoy was reminded of the need for the Black community to connect with mental health resources. He used his community outreach program, the Black Neighborhood, to host a hike in June in his native East Oakland and his current home in Los Angeles. “We wanted to create or work toward creating community and creating spaces for Black people to just exist and decompress all of those things, just to feel and emote,” he said. The group plans to host hikes every other month. Stay connected with the Black Neighborhood at its Instagram @theblackneighborhood.

Black Girls Trekkin: Michelle Race and Tiffany Tharpe founded Black Girls Trekkin in 2017 after they found personal healing through hiking. The group, which works to create community and dismantle stereotypes about who belongs in the outdoors, now has more than 33,000 followers on Instagram. Follow them @blackgirlstrekkin.

Outdoor Asian: Outdoor Asian is a national organization that seeks to empower Asian Americans to connect to the outdoors. Its Los Angeles Facebook group has 160 members; during the pandemic, the organization is spending time building its blog so people can submit articles about their experiences outdoors. Join the Facebook group @outdoorasianlosangeles.

Disabled Hikers: Disabled Hikers, a resource center for those with disabilities who want to go outdoors, is based in the Pacific Northwest but is making inroads in California (the group has produced a trail guide for the Big Sur area). The group accepts trail guides written by members of the disabled community and has plans to expand its reach to other cities, including Los Angeles. Follow on Instagram @disabledhikers.

American Hiking Society: The nonprofit group believes that "the outdoors should be a place of healing and enjoyment for all." It has created a web resource with lists of Black, Indigenous and people of color hiking groups, contact information and more. Go to bit.ly/RacismintheOutdoors.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.